Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day: When the Snow Lies Round about Smooth and Deep and Even

Canada has a holiday the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, whose origins apparently go back to the time when the working folk received gifts from the better off . Taking an extra day after the great feasting of Christmas seems to me to be great good sense. We'll lie around the house, read our gift books, listen to our gift CDs and eat left-overs. It will be fun without the pressure of Christmas or New Year's,

It also is St. Stephen's Day, I see as I google around, which brings to mind a carol I thought of frequently as I've been walking around the neighborhood these last couple of weeks.

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blow stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.


Martin Langeland said...

My favorite heretical addition was sung by Walt Kelly's Churchy Lafemme:
"Good King Sauerkraut looked out
upon his feets uneven ..."

Also make a space to celebrate the fool's feast on Monday. This is the fourth of the thirteen days of Christmas see My Foolish Feast for elucidation.
And as soon as we finish with the western series we can shift to the Orthodox calendar and keep going 'til Chinese New Year


lagatta said...

psst... neighbourhood - ou quartier.

Funny, that song is about Mitteleuropa, but it is so much about Victorian charity, Boxing Day, rank, munificence towards the poor.

I am SO sick of the very unsmooth, not very deep and uneven ice. Setting forth to feed a friend's cat in your neighbourhood was exploit enough.

Got back home in one piece, thank the cat-goddess.

Mary Soderstrom said...

It is also nice to have some quote Pogo. My own favourite carol is "Deck us all with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla, Wash, and Kalamazoo," not least because I was born in Walla Walla. And my plan is to try your pancake recipe this weekend, Martin. Somewhere along the my Scotch ancestry has taken a backseat to Lee's Swedish roots, and we need a little oatmeal to set things right.

And Maria, so glad the cat goddess is watching over you. Lee reports that it is somewhat better this morning.


lagatta said...

Well, the oatmeal pancakes are another high-energy thing for a cold climate - and a change from making porridge from the oatmeal. But then Scots also have oatcakes. I suspect those sturdy Swedish pancakes could keep and be eaten cold if need be...